21 May 2012
Amid the booming rubber plantation industry in Cotabato, workers are being trained by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) in the art of extracting an important raw material from the natural crop.
Secretary Joel Villanueva, the agency's Director General, announced that TESDA has recently promulgated the Training Regulations on Rubber Production NC II and Rubber Processing NC II. These will now serve as the training standards for developing the skills of workers interested in mastering the skill and securing employment in plantations.
Scholarships will be made available to qualified trainees under the agency's Training for Work Scholarship Program (TWSP), with an initial batch of 25 students undergoing the training next month at the Makilala Technical Vocational Training Center in Makilala town in North Cotabato.
"The province has the resources. TESDA will help provide the people with competencies through training so that they will learn the skills and technology to transform the crop into useful and marketable products," Villanueva said.
The local government headed by North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Talino-Mendoza has committed to allocate 10,000 hectares of land for massive rubber trees planting.
Florante Herrera, TESDA provincial director, said that at least 10,000 workers would be needed to cover the workload of tapping or extracting the liquid latex from the rubber trees for the said area.
The Makilala town will also offer two demonstration farms totalling six hectares of lot for the actual skills workshop. The demonstration farms have a rubber nursery, bud wood and available space for the workshop activities.
The important raw material from rubber trees called the liquid latex is extracted through a process called tapping.
After making a spiral cut in a rubber tree, white drops of latex will appear in the cut and will drip into a cup. The white drops undergo a process and are made into a raw material called latex.
Latex is used in manufacturing rubber products such as tires, balls and heels and soles of shoes. There are as much as 50,000 products made of latex as raw material.
Makilala Mayor Rudy Caogdan said that in the town's goal to become "Rubber Capital" of the country, the trainings offered by TESDA will play a key role in supporting the demand of the industry for skilled workforce in securing investments and sustainability of the market.
Villanueva said the rubber tree plantations in the Cotabato provinces are a goldmine waiting to be tapped.
"The white drops of latex are called the whitegold of the plantation. We will train workers that will harvest them," he said.
Rubber is one of the major crops of Cotabato farmers. Farmers are able to harvest natural rubber with a minimum average of 300 kilograms per hectare a month.
These natural rubbers are now being sold to different processing plants to produce dry rubber. As of February 2011, natural rubber reached its highest value at P90 per kilo.
The Philippines hopes to achieve the success of its neighbor countries in the rubber industry, like Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
In 2010, Thailand's exports of unprocessed rubber reached US $8.1 billion, making it among its top agricultural export along with rice, according to the official business report of the Thai government.
Malaysian Rubber Board, meanwhile, said that the rubber industry contributed about RM34 billion (US $11.1 billion) in export revenue in 2010, accounting to six percent of the country's total export earnings.
"We can see from these countries that money is indeed flowing from the rubber trees. The Philippines hopes to carve a niche in the rubber industry," Villanueva said.